21st of December 2022
Who remembers Bad Girls Australia? They were an adult entertainment group in the '90s. Their advertising slogan was "When they're good, they're good. But when they're bad, they're sensational!" Whenever I think about software updates, I'm reminded of that slogan, albeit turned on its head so it goes something like "When they're good, they're good. But when they're bad, they're your worst nightmare!"
Now, before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I also remember Manpower, except their slogan doesn't remind me of software updates. I'm not even sure if they had a slogan, but I digress. I've had quite a few bad experiences with software updates lately, so I thought I would share some of the more interesting and memorable ones from the past. This certainly isn't an exhaustive list by any means.
In the early '90s, most people didn't have an internet connection. Those who did had dial-up, which was a far cry from the always-on broadband connections that we're used to nowadays. This made it difficult for software developers and publishers to not only notify people about updates, but also deliver the updates themselves. Still, this didn't stop Broderbund and Distinctive Software from releasing an update to their revolutionary 3D racer of the time, Stunts.
What set Stunts apart from other racing games at the time was the inclusion of a built-in track editor, which allowed players to create their own tracks and share them with others. It also featured a comprehensive replay system with multiple camera angles and playback options. You could even continue driving from any point during a replay, but in doing so, you would forfeit the opportunity to set a high score. Also, due to memory limitations, replays could only be a maximum of ten minutes in length.
In version 1.0, once the replay buffer was full, the game would prompt you to watch the replay so far or continue driving. However, in version 1.1, the game would simply freeze. Once this happened, you had no option but to restart your computer, effectively making it impossible to complete a race that went for longer than ten minutes. Version 1.1 improved the game in many ways, but this was one way in which it was clearly worse. I guess you could have taken it as an incentive to improve your driving, but it also meant that all those endurance tracks that you spent ages making were now useless.
Version 1.0 was considerate of those who were a little slow.
My first venture into the world of smart watches was with the Garmin vívoactive 4. Immediately after the initial purchase, I went about customising it to my liking, which included downloading and installing several custom watch faces. Now, when using custom watch faces, the watch will go into a low power mode when you're not interacting with it to conserve the battery. In this mode, the information displayed on the watch face will only update once every minute. However, when you look at the watch by raising your wrist, it will turn on the backlight and go into a high power mode momentarily, which updates the watch face every second.
I liked this feature and I was happy with the battery life, but it wasn't long before I was prompted to install a software update. I naively accepted and waited for the update to download and install. Once the update was complete, I immediately noticed that the whole gesture-based power mode feature no longer worked. The backlight would turn on when I raised my wrist, but the only way I could get the watch face to update on demand was to touch the screen or press a button. This meant that most of my custom watch faces were functionally useless compared to the standard ones. Also, to add insult to injury, I was unable to revert to the previous software version.
This kind of thing infuriates me, so I called Garmin Support to let them know about the issue. I didn't know what to expect, but a few months later, they released a software update that resolved the issue. I wouldn't say this was done in a timely manner, but at least they came through in the end. I've since purchased the Instinct Solar and the fenix 7X Solar, both of which have received several software updates and haven't experienced any issues whatsoever.
"You're not going to meet any women if you wear a digital watch." Charlie Harper, Two and a Half Men
If you work in the accounting industry, you've probably had to deal with an MYOB product at some point. Less than a decade ago, they were at the top of their game with products like AccountRight and RetailManager. However, in recent years, RetailManager has been discarded like a box of old floppy disks, and AccountRight has become a shell of its once-former glory. These days, it's a bloated mess of Windows GUI and web-based elements. Is it a native Windows application or a web application? Nobody knows!
Ironically, in the last few years, the sheer number of updates seems to rival the number of bugs that I've had to deal with. Because of this, it's difficult to determine which updates actually fixed issues and which ones caused them. Nevertheless, while I may not be able to quote version numbers, the incidents are still etched in my memory:
Unfortunately, now that MYOB requires you to have your company file online in order to comply with current government requirements, AccountRight no longer has any redeeming features as far as I'm concerned.
It might look reminiscent of version 19, but don't be fooled, that tried and trusted workhorse is long gone.
I'm a big fan of open source software, and Mozilla Thunderbird is no exception. I've been using it for many years now and one of the main reasons is the support for add-ons. If there's something that you need that it doesn't already do, chances are that someone has created an add-on for it. The possibilities are endless! Well, almost. You see, although add-on support is one of my favourite features, it's also the one that causes me the most pain.
Since most add-ons are developed by third parties, their development process is not linked to that of Thunderbird itself. This means that as new versions of Thunderbird are released, add-ons often become incompatible and you're left waiting for them to be updated before they will work again. In some cases, the developer has since abandoned the add-on, forcing you to retire it or revert to the last compatible version of Thunderbird. If you opt for the latter, you might also find that you're unable to retain your profile depending on how many versions of Thunderbird have been released since the add-on stopped working.
Thankfully, Thunderbird gives you the option to disable automatic updates, allowing you to update manually. This is what I do, carefully considering add-on availability and compatibility each time. This might sound like a huge inconvenience for the average user, but chances are if you're reading this, you're not an average user. For a power user or IT professional, it's a piece of cake and often the preferred way to update.
Maybe the use of animals in their logos is what makes Mozilla applications so loveable.
Being the first version of Windows to force updates on users, its appearance here is no surprise. If you have the Professional edition, it's supposedly possible to disable automatic updates with a group policy. However, as you'll soon discover, this is hardly a reliable solution. I get it, Microsoft wants to make it difficult for the average user to miss out on updates, but do they really think that the average user even knows what a group policy is? I've had my fair share of battles with Windows 10, so here are just a few situations where it's caused me to curse out loud at my computer:
Windows 10 is great in many ways, but more often than not, I'm left missing the days of Windows 7. I haven't personally tried Windows 11 yet, despite it being available for over a year now. This is mainly due to my experience with Windows 10, so I probably won't start using it until I absolutely have to.
You can add this to the growing list of group policies that are now blatantly ignored by Windows.
So there you have it, these are the experiences that I'm reminded of when I think about software updates. That, and '90s adult entertainment, of course. If anyone knows whether Manpower had an advertising slogan or not, please contact me and let me know. It's not that I'm a big fan of Jamie Durie or anything, but knowledge is power, and it would be nice to literally know everything.